Borussia Dortmund’s home clash with injury-ravaged Bayern Munich on Saturday is their best chance to beat their bitter rivals in years.
Bayern have not lost to Dortmund in the league in five years but travel north missing several stars, particularly in defence.
The German champions confirmed on Thursday that Matthijs de Ligt will miss several games with a knee ligament injury.
Fellow centre-back Dayot Upamecano is sidelined by a hamstring tear, meaning Kim Min-jae could be the only recognised central defender in Saturday’s squad.
Midfielder Leon Goretzka and former Dortmund defender Raphael Guerreiro are under injury clouds, while Joshua Kimmich will miss the match through suspension.
Bayern were eliminated by third-division Saarbruecken in the German Cup on Wednesday.
The Bavarians could fall as many as five points behind leaders Bayer Leverkusen — and be leapfrogged by Dortmund — should they lose on Saturday.
Nicknamed “Der Klassiker”, Bayern-Dortmund games have been largely one-way traffic in recent years.
The sides met at Wembley in the 2013 Champions League final, won 2-1 by Bayern, while Dortmund last beat the perennial German champions in the league in 2018.
In 2022, Dortmund fought back from two goals down to draw 2-2 at home to Bayern, breaking a run of seven straight wins for the Bavarians.
At the end of the season however the same name was on the Bundesliga shield, with Dortmund held 2-2 at home to Mainz, handing the title to their southern rivals.
Defender Nico Schlotterbeck on Thursday told Sky his side were not motivated by a “desire for revenge”, instead saying “we have to win every game”.
“It’s that time again,” Dortmund sporting director Sebastian Kehl said after his side’s 1-0 German Cup win over Hoffenheim on Wednesday, calling the match “the biggest game we have in Germany”.
Unbeaten this season, Dortmund sit two points behind Bayern in fourth and have lost just one of 28 league fixtures in 2023.
“We know it’s been a long time since we won (against Bayern),” coach Edin Terzic said on Wednesday, “but we also know that we were often close.”
Teenage Bayern striker Mathys Tel has challenged Dortmund to step up on Saturday.
“I hope they’re ready because we certainly will be,” the 18-year-old Frenchman told the Bundesliga website.
“And we’ll do whatever it takes.”
One to watch: Harry Kane
England captain Harry Kane has been a superb addition for Bayern Munich, scoring 14 times in 13 matches in all competitions.
While his seven assists show how the striker is helping his teammates, in particular Leroy Sane, the Bavarians have showed worrying frailty without Kane in the line-up.
When Kane starts, Bayern have won 10 and drawn two of 12 matches. Without him, Bayern have lost two of three.
Kane did not make it onto the pitch in Wednesday’s surprise German Cup elimination to third-division Saarbruecken, with coach Thomas Tuchel saying “I wanted to wait until extra time.”
Saarbruecken scored in the final minute of injury time for a 2-1 win.
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